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  Words in the News

During his visit to Damascus Pope John Paul II became the first pope in history to enter and pray inside a mosque. The BBC's Rome correspondent, David Willey, reports.

  Audio Listen to the report in full
Pope John Paul II

7th May 2001

Pope John Paul II visits Damascus Mosque

  Audio Listen to the first part of the report

The highlight of this pilgrimage of Pope John Paul in the footsteps of his namesake, Saint Paul, was his visit to the Umayyad mosque. During Paul's lifetime two thousand years ago, the site where the mosque now stands was occupied by a Roman temple built to honour Jupiter. The temple successively became a Christian church and then, fourteen hundred years ago was taken over by Islamic believers.

As he entered the mosque the Pope's shoes were removed and he put on white slippers as tradition demands to walk on the carpeted floor as far as Saint John the Baptist's tomb. Saint John is venerated by believers of both faiths. There the Pope touched the white marble shrine and paused for a minute in silent prayer, just like millions of pilgrims before him. Then, leaning on the arm of an aide, he went outside into the vast courtyard of the Mosque to sit with Syria's Grand Mufti and other Muslim clerics while they prayed to the almighty.

    Audio Listen to the words

pilgrimage: a journey that someone makes to a holy place

mosque: a mosque is a place where Muslims go to worship

temple: a building used for the worship of a god in some religions

slippers: soft shoes that you wear in the house

tomb: a stone structure containing the body of a dead person

venerated: if you venerate someone you value them or feel great respect towards them

faiths: a faith is a particular religion, such as Christianity or Islam

shrine: a shrine is a holy place associated with a sacred person or object

aide: an aide is an assistant to a person who has an important job

courtyard: a courtyard is a flat open area of ground surrounded by walls

NEWS 2    Audio Listen to the second part of the report

Mindful of past centuries of conflict in the Middle East between Christians and Muslims, Pope John Paul said he hoped both religions would now find new ways to present their respective creeds as partners not adversaries.

Pope John Paul:
"Dear Muslim friends, I give heartfelt praise to almighty God - for the grace of this meeting."

The Pope's gesture today towards Islam is every bit as meaningful as his now historic visit to Rome's synagogue fifteen years ago. The Pope's message rings clear in the turbulent Middle East. Religion should never be an excuse for violence against one's neighbour.

    Audio Listen to the words

mindful: if you are mindful of something, you remember it when taking action

conflict: conflict is disagreement and argument

respective: respective means relating separately to the people you have mentioned:

creeds: a creed is a set of beliefs that influence the way people live and work

adversaries: your adversary is someone you are competing against or fighting against

gesture: here, something that you do in order to establish your intentions

rings clear: makes a very plain statement

: in a turbulent region there is constant change and confusion

    Read more on this topic in BBC News Online

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